NFL Players Who Won't Live Up to the Hype in 2022

NFL Players Who Won’t Live Up to the Hype in 2022

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    The NFL offseason is a time of hope for all 32 teams. With shiny new pieces entering the picture through the draft, free agency and trades, every team at least feels like it has improved.

    The offseason can also be a time for hype, as some of those new pieces are expected to shine immediately. As we’ve learned over the years, though, expectations can be a bit of a burden.

    Last offseason, for example, a four-year, $72 million contract set incredibly high expectations for wide receiver Kenny Golladay and the New York Giants. Golladay had 521 receiving yards and zero touchdowns in 14 games—understandable, considering he played in the league’s 31st-ranked offense led by three different starting quarterbacks—but his campaign was largely viewed as a disappointment.

    Here, we’ll examine eight players who carry the weight of high 2022 expectations and who are unlikely to deliver. The reasons vary—factors like injury history, supporting cast, age and contract/draft status were all considered—and we’ll tackle each individually.

    Players are listed in alphabetical order.

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    On the opening night of the draft, the Arizona Cardinals acquired wideout Marquise Brown and a third-round pick from the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for the 23rd overall pick in Round 1.

    Landing the 100th overall pick helped balance this trade some for the Cardinals. However, Arizona still surrendered a lot for a receiver with just one 1,000-yard campaign on his resume and two years left of contract control—including the fifth-year option.

    For the move to pay off for Arizona, Brown will have to be a big-time contributor out of the gate. The problem is that Brown has shown little to suggest he can be a No. 1 target. He had 1,008 receiving yards in 2021 but also produced a quarterback rating of only 87.9 when targeted.

    Brown’s preexisting chemistry with quarterback Kyler Murray—the two played together at Oklahoma—should up his value slightly. Yet, it still feels like Arizona overpaid for a speedy complementary receiver instead of finding Murray a new top target.

    And Murray will need a new top target, at least for part of the season. No. 1 receiver DeAndre Hopkins was handed a six-game suspension in May for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

    This isn’t to say that Brown won’t be an asset in the passing game. He just doesn’t appear to be a clear upgrade over last year’s No. 2 receiver, Christian Kirk—who joined the Jacksonville Jaguars on a four-year, $72 million deal. Given the rising cost of receivers, the Cardinals may eventually have to pay Brown, who is only seven months younger than Kirk, even more for similar results.

    With the first-round pick factored into the equation, Brown will have a very hard time living up to the cost in 2022.

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    Like the Ravens, the Tennessee Titans traded a wide receiver on the opening night of the draft. They sent A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles for the 18th overall selection. Tennessee then used the pick on former Arkansas receiver Treylon Burks.

    On a positive note, the Titans avoided paying Brown a massive extension—he got a new four-year, $100 million deal from the Eagles. They instead get a new big-bodied (6’2″, 225 lbs) perimeter target on a rookie contract.

    However, anyone expecting Burks to step in and immediately replace Brown may be disappointed. The 22-year-old has plenty of physical tools, but he’s far from a finished product.

    “He will need to improve on some details to make the most of his ability, which makes his floor to be an every-down contributor a bit lower when he starts his professional career,” Nate Tice of the Bleacher Report scouting department wrote.

    Burks’ lack of polish and top-end speed (4.55-second 40-yard dash at the combine) could lead to very mixed results as a rookie. He has a ton of upside, but he isn’t going to make fans forget about Brown right away.

    Brown was a 1,000-yard receiver as a rookie and a Pro Bowler by Year 2. Burks’ development is likely to be more gradual, and fans hyped about the receiver switch should approach it with a little bit of patience.

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    Last season, the Miami Dolphins had one of the worst rushing offenses in the league. It ranked 30th in yards and 31st in yards per attempt. The hiring of former San Francisco 49ers run game coordinator Mike McDaniel should help the Dolphins trend in the right direction.

    Miami added another piece to its rushing puzzle in free agency, signing former Cardinals back Chase Edmonds to a two-year, $12.1 million deal. His deal includes the second-highest annual value and the second-most guaranteed money—behind Leonard Fournette—of any running back signed this offseason.

    “Miami got a dawg,” Kyler Murray tweeted shortly after the signing.

    However, anyone hyped to see Edmonds go from being a Cardinals role player to a Dolphins workhorse is going to be disappointed.

    Edmonds flashed plenty in Arizona, averaging 4.7 yards per carry and 7.2 yards per reception over four seasons. However, he was constantly splitting time—with the likes of David Johnson, Kenyan Drake and James Conner—and he’ll face a similar situation in Miami.

    The Dolphins still have Myles Gaskin on the roster and added Sony Michel and Raheem Mostert in free agency. Mostert played for McDaniel in San Francisco, while Michel is coming off a Super Bowl campaign with the Los Angeles Rams. Each will cut heavily into Edmonds’ workload.

    The reality is that while he got low-end starter money from the Dolphins, Edmonds will once again be a role player in a committee. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but the 26-year-old is not suddenly going to be a real-world or fantasy star.

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    Chase Edmonds, of course, wasn’t Miami’s big acquisition of the offseason. That would be former Kansas City Chiefs wideout Tyreek Hill, who was snagged through a blockbuster trade. The six-time Pro Bowler cost Miami first-, second- and two fourth-round picks in the 2022 draft and a 2023 sixth-rounder.

    Miami immediately signed Hill to a four-year, $120 million extension.

    Hill is now the league’s highest-paid receiver in terms of annual value. However, he’s not going to be the league’s most productive receiver with the Dolphins.

    In Kansas City, Hill had it good. He had a dynamic quarterback in Patrick Mahomes, an experienced and creative play-caller in Andy Reid and a strong supporting cast. In Miami, he’ll also have a good supporting cast and a creative play-caller in McDaniel, but McDaniel is a rookie head coach only now establishing an offense. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is nowhere near Mahomes’ level.

    Tagovailoa has a winning record as a starter but has struggled to push the ball downfield. Last season, he ranked 25th among qualifying starters with an average of just 6.8 yards per attempt. Hill, who thrives as a deep threat, won’t be as prolific with Tagovailoa under center.

    Dolphins fans shouldn’t be completely discouraged, though. Hill’s after-the-catch ability will allow him to make plays, and he will boost the Miami offense. Hill, who averaged just 11.2 yards per reception last season, doesn’t have to go deep to be successful.

    In what is likely to be a balanced and run-heavy offense—McDaniel’s 49ers ranked 29th in pass attempts last season—though, Hill’s numbers simply won’t stack up the same way. Hill caught 111 passes last season. He’s unlikely to do that in Miami, and while Hill may still be a 1,000-yard receiver, he’s not going to be among the league’s best wideouts this season.

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    The Cleveland Browns turned a lot of heads when they handed tight end David Njoku a new four-year, $54.8 million extension. The deal makes Njoku the league’s fifth-highest-paid tight end in terms of annual salary.

    Njoku’s numbers don’t suggest he is worthy. His best season came in 2018, when the Miami product logged 639 yards and four touchdowns. However, that’s the only time he has ever topped 500 yards and ties his career high for touchdowns in a season.

    The Browns are banking heavily on Njoku’s upside.

    “I think there is an evolution that will continue for David the player,” head coach Kevin Stefanski said, per Anthony Poisal of the team’s official website. “He’s young. I don’t know if he physically can grow any more, but his game can grow.

    While Njoku may eventually become a top-tier tight end, it isn’t likely to happen this season. The departure of Austin Hooper should help his numbers, but Njoku will still be competing with Harrison Bryant for targets in a very run-heavy offense.

    Njoku may also spend much or all of the season with journeyman quarterback Jacoby Brissett under center. The Browns traded for Deshaun Watson in the offseason, and Watson is about to be looking at a total of 24 lawsuits from women accusing him of sexual assault and misconduct. He could face discipline under the league’s personal conduct policy.

    Baker Mayfield will still be in play at quarterback, as the 2018 first overall pick remains on the roster. NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport told The Rich Eisen Show that there have been “conversations” in Cleveland about keeping Mayfield this season. However, Cleveland may have burned that bridge when it made the move for Watson.

    Mayfield requested a trade before the Watson trade was even done, and he hasn’t appeared at OTAs. It would take significant work on the Browns’ part to convince Mayfield to be a placeholder this season. At this point, Brissett feels like the more realistic insurance policy.

    With Brissett—who has averaged 6.4 yards per attempt and fewer than one touchdown per start in his career—Njoku’s numbers are likely to underwhelm. If Cleveland hopes to see Njoku break out, it may have to wait another year.

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers tabbed quarterback Kenny Pickett to be the long-term heir to Ben Roethlisberger this offseason. The Steelers made the Pittsburgh product the first quarterback taken in the draft and the only quarterback taken before Round 3.

    While first-round quarterbacks are usually expected to start sooner than later, Pickett will have a hard time getting onto the field early as a rookie.

    Pittsburgh also has seasoned Steelers backup Mason Rudolph on the roster and added Mitch Trubisky in free agency. Rudolph has started 10 games in three seasons for the franchise, while Trubisky has a 29-21 starting record.

    The Steelers are always in the playoff mix, and they’ll be looking to start the quarterback who gives them the best chance to win now. Barring a major surprise, that won’t be Pickett. So far, the rookie has been a non-factor in the quarterback competition.

    “Maybe the team is focusing on Pickett and [Chris] Oladokun learning the offense before putting them with bigger names during drills,” Noah Strackbein of All Steelers wrote. “It just seems odd that their first-round pick is throwing passes to the fourth-string receiver while Rudolph and Trubisky are working with the ones.”

    Pittsburgh appears perfectly content to develop Pickett on the sidelines. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it will disappoint any fans who were hyped to get a long look at the future in 2022.

    If Pickett starts, it probably won’t happen until late in the season—and the 23-year-old may not see enough playing time to even be a factor in the race for Offensive Rookie of the Year.

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    Justin Casterline/Getty Images

    The New York Giants should see an early impact from first-round picks Evan Neal and Kayvon Thibodeaux. Neal is a polished offensive tackle prospect who should start right away opposite Andrew Thomas. Thibodeaux is a traits-based selection who may not be as consistent out of the gate but who is talented enough to be a quality rotational pass-rusher.

    Second-round receiver Wan’Dale Robinson, though, may be a couple of years away from being a star.

    New York obviously liked the Kentucky product enough to take him 43rd overall, and the skilled but undersized (5’8″, 178 lbs) receiver could eventually become a fixture in the slot. However, Robinson faces a lot of competition for playing time, as the Giants have Sterling Shepard, Kenny Golladay, Darius Slayton and 2021 first-round pick Kadarius Toney at receiver.

    The Giants are also coming off a season in which they ranked 31st in both yards and scoring. While the hiring of coach Brian Daboll should help the offense improve, it’s not going to be an instant fix.

    Yes, Daboll oversaw a potent Buffalo Bills offense last season, but that unit had loads of talent and a dynamic quarterback in Josh Allen. Daboll’s track record with more mediocre offenses is far less impressive.

    The 2021 Bills ranked fifth in total offense with Allen leading the charge. In Daboll’s three previous offensive coordinator stops—with the 2010 Browns, 2011 Dolphins and 2012 Chiefs—his offenses ranked 29th, 22nd and 24th, respectively. Daniel Jones is not Allen, and New York should expect a more middle-of-the-pack offense than an elite one.

    It’s going to take time for the Giants offense to really come together. It’s going to take time for Robinson to carve out a significant role. It all adds up to an underwhelming rookie campaign for New York’s second-round selection.

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    Few players generate as much hype as the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Regardless of the position, a first overall pick is expected to change the trajectory of a franchise and be a star from day one.

    This is not what Jacksonville Jaguars fans are likely to get from former Georgia defensive end Travon Walker.

    Walker has loads of athletic upside—he ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash at 6’5″ and 272 pounds—but struggled to be an elite difference-maker in college. He’s unpolished as a pass-rusher and is going to need time to develop to be a successful edge-defender in the NFL. He logged just 9.5 sacks in three seasons, and his inexperience is unprecedented for a first overall pick.

    “At non-quarterback positions, there has never been a first pick with
    only one season as a starter since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970—that is,
    there hadn’t been until the Jaguars selected Walker,” The Ringer’s Ben Solak
    wrote. “It’s not that first picks have to be experienced
    players—rather, it’s that first picks are usually so dominant at the
    college level, there’s no way they don’t start for a couple of seasons.
    But that wasn’t true for Walker.”

    This isn’t to say that Walker won’t eventually prove to be the right choice for the Jaguars. His physical attributes are undeniable, and his upside is as high as any prospect in the 2022 class. In time, he very well could be among the league’s best pass-rushers.

    It’s not going to happen in Year 1, though, which may leave fans initially frustrated with Jacksonville’s top choice. Jags fans should be patient and look to revisit the pick in a couple of years.

    Contract information via Spotrac. Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference.


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